Meticulous research results in a significant biography of a trailblazer who now has a CIA building named after her.

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A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE AMERICAN SPY WHO HELPED WIN WORLD WAR II

A remarkable chronicle of a courageous woman who worked undercover for British and American intelligence in occupied France during World War II and had to fight for every ounce of recognition she deserved.

Throughout this lively examination of the life of Virginia Hall (1906-1982), British biographer and journalist Purnell (Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, 2015, etc.) shows how, if Hall had been a man, dropping undercover in and out of occupied Vichy, Paris, and Lyon, setting up safe houses, and coordinating couriers for the Resistance, she would now be as famous as James Bond. However, this daughter of a well-off Baltimore family, who attended Radcliffe and Barnard before finishing her education in Europe, dreamed of a career in the American Foreign Service—but over and over she was relegated to the secretary’s desk. In 1933, a freak hunting accident in Turkey left her with an amputated left leg, a horrendous experience that only seemed to steel her resolve to live her life as she pleased. The outbreak of Nazi aggression in 1939 and subsequent invasion of France prompted Hall to volunteer to drive ambulances for the Service de Santé des Armées. Then, a fortuitous meeting with an agent of the Special Operations Executive, the fledgling British secret service, sealed her fate. Impressed by her courage, independence, and poise, the SOE tasked Hall with returning to occupied France to help coordinate the work of local Resistance leaders and future SOE agents. Her appointment, writes the author of her consistently fascinating subject, “was an outstanding act of faith in her abilities, which had for so long been belittled or ignored.” Hall’s daring efforts in the breakout of Resistance prisoners in the Vichy-run internment camp at Mauzac, in March 1942, was a stunning achievement considering the enormous danger of getting caught and tortured by the Gestapo. Later in the narrative, the author amply shows how her later CIA work was only grudgingly recognized and celebrated.

Meticulous research results in a significant biography of a trailblazer who now has a CIA building named after her.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2529-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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